The History of Edwards, Colorado: From Railroad Stop to Resort Town

Cover Photo: Downtown Edwards, Colorado Today | Photo Credit: Uncover Colorado

Welcome to Edwards, Colorado, a captivating town nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. With its rich history and picturesque surroundings, Edwards offers a delightful blend of old-world charm and contemporary allure. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the captivating history of this enchanting destination, from its humble beginnings as a railroad stop to its transformation into a thriving resort town. 

Edwards, Colorado, has a fascinating history that begins with its establishment as a railroad stop along the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in the late 19th century. Named after Melvin Edwards, the town quickly grew as a transportation hub, supporting the mining and agriculture industries in the region. Over the years, Edwards evolved into a tight-knit community with schools, churches, and civic institutions, cherishing its history and traditions. Today, Edwards has transformed into a thriving resort town, attracting tourists with its blend of historical charm and modern amenities. 

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad

In Edwards’ early days, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad played a pivotal role in the history and development of Edwards and the surrounding region. Stretching its iron tracks across the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains, this historic railroad left an indelible mark on the landscape and the communities it connected.

The origins of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad can be traced back to the mid-19th century when the United States was experiencing a rapid expansion westward. In the pursuit of connecting the burgeoning city of Denver with the booming mining districts in western Colorado, the railroad company embarked on an ambitious endeavor, starting in 1870.

Edwards, initially established as a humble railroad stop, became an integral part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad's route. The town owes its name to Melvin Edwards, a prominent figure involved in the construction of the railroad. This strategic location served as a vital transportation hub, facilitating the movement of goods, people, and supplies throughout the region.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad 683 Steam Locomotive | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As the railroad extended its reach, it brought significant economic growth and prosperity to Edwards. The arrival of the railroad opened new opportunities for trade and commerce, attracting settlers, entrepreneurs, and fortune seekers. Edwards became a bustling center for transporting raw materials, including timber, ore, and agricultural products, to markets both near and far.

With the advent of the railroad, Edwards saw a surge in mining activities. The discovery of precious metals such as silver and gold in the nearby mountains sparked a mining boom. The railroad, whose motto was “through the Rockies, not around them," provided a lifeline for mining operations, enabling efficient transportation of ore and supplies, and fueling the growth of the mining industry in the region.

Not only did the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad facilitate trade and mining, but it also played a significant role in connecting communities and fostering social cohesion. It allowed for the exchange of ideas, goods, and culture, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. Edwards transformed from a mere railroad stop into a thriving community as families settled in the area, establishing homes, businesses, and institutions.

Over time, the railroad's influence waned with the advent of more modern modes of transportation. However, its legacy lives on in Edwards and the surrounding region. Today, remnants of the railroad's infrastructure can still be seen, serving as a reminder of the transformative impact it had on the area.

The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad's history near Edwards, Colorado stands as a testament to the indomitable human spirit, as well as the importance of transportation in shaping the growth and development of communities. It paved the way for Edwards' emergence as a vibrant town, rooted in both history and progress. As you explore Edwards today, take a moment to appreciate the profound role that this historic railroad played in shaping the town and its surrounding landscapes. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad operated for over 120 years, when it closed in 1992 as the result of a merger with the larger Southern Pacific Railroad.

Mining and Agriculture

As the railroad prospered, Edwards witnessed the rise of mining and agriculture industries. The discovery of precious metals, including silver and gold, lured prospectors seeking their fortunes in the surrounding mountains. Mines sprang up in the nearby hills, and the town became a hub for mining operations, supporting the influx of workers and providing essential services.

Simultaneously, fertile land and favorable climate nurtured agricultural endeavors, with Edwards becoming a prominent center for farming and ranching. Fields of crops, cattle ranches, and dairy farms dotted the landscape, creating a flourishing agricultural community.


Miners in Eagle County, Colorado | Photo Credit: Colorado Encyclopedia

The Growth of a Community

Over the years, Edwards has evolved into a tight-knit community, as families put down roots and businesses thrived. The construction of schools, churches, and other civic institutions solidified the town's sense of identity and cohesion. Edwards became not only a place to live and work but also a vibrant community that cherished its history and traditions.

With the advent of recreational tourism in the region, Edwards underwent a remarkable transformation. Its strategic location, surrounded by the stunning Rocky mountains and close proximity to world-class ski resorts, turned the town into a sought-after destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The completion of Interstate 70 in the 1970s further boosted accessibility, making Edwards an easily accessible gateway to the Rockies.

Present-Day Charm

Today, Edwards presents a captivating blend of history and modernity. The town has embraced its resort-town status while still maintaining its small-town charm. Visitors can explore the quaint downtown area, lined with charming shops, art galleries, and inviting eateries. The Riverwalk, a picturesque pedestrian promenade along the Eagle River, offers a serene escape, perfect for strolling, cycling, or simply unwinding amidst nature's beauty. Outdoor enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the region's natural wonders with activities like hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing. The nearby White River National Forest provides a pristine playground for adventurers, with its vast network of trails leading to breathtaking vistas and hidden alpine lakes.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Edwards is conveniently located near world-class ski resorts. Strap on your skis or snowboard and carve through fresh powder at Vail, Beaver Creek, or Arrowhead Mountain Resort. With meticulously groomed slopes, challenging terrain, and state-of-the-art facilities, these resorts offer an unforgettable winter sports experience.


The Sawatch Range in Edwards, Colorado | Photo Credit: iStock Photo

In addition to its outdoor offerings, Edwards boasts a vibrant cultural scene. Art enthusiasts can explore local galleries showcasing a diverse range of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. The town also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, providing opportunities to immerse yourself in music, theater, and dance.

If shopping is your passion, Edwards won't disappoint. The town is home to charming boutique shops, specialty stores, and unique artisan markets. From trendy fashion boutiques to antique shops and local crafts, you'll find a wealth of treasures to browse and purchase.

Just here for the food? Edwards has emerged as a culinary destination, offering a wide range of dining experiences to satisfy even the most discerning palates. Indulge in farm-to-table cuisine at upscale restaurants or sample local flavors at casual eateries. From cozy cafes serving gourmet coffee to fine dining establishments with panoramic mountain views, Edwards presents a delectable array of dining options for food enthusiasts.

Edwards is a fantastic destination for families as well. Spend quality time with your loved ones at the Edwards Corner Farmers Market, where you can explore local produce, artisanal crafts, and live entertainment. The nearby Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail showcases stunning alpine flora and offers educational programs for all ages. Families can also enjoy activities like horseback riding, river rafting, and mini-golf, ensuring that everyone finds something to enjoy.

As you immerse yourself in the captivating history of Edwards, Colorado, you'll discover a town that seamlessly blends its rich past with contemporary allure. From its humble beginnings as a railroad stop to its transformation into a thriving resort town, Edwards offers an enchanting experience for visitors seeking both tranquility and adventure.